Kale, kombucha and food guilt

I’m not going to feel guilty about the Halloween pumpkins, and my coffee, and my bar of dark chocolate. I’m just not. In an age where eating right means you’re holy and pure and right, I’m just not going to buy into it. I want to buy into it. I do buy into it. Pushing my cart around Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s and eyeing the $5 green juice in the refrigerated section or the Kombucha they now sell at Target, and I almost reach for it (but realize: wait, we have a juicer at home, that’s a waste of money — so see, I’m still buying into it, just not buying it). The ready-to-drink green juice holds out a modicum of hope for the weary masses — convenience + health + pretty packaging = holiness. In a similar manner to how malls held out a hope for salvation for a generation or two earlier, now, salvation is found in our pursuit of pure health. If we drink the right thing, make sure there’s no HFCS or food dyes or additives of any kind, then we’ll be okay. We’ve become the helicopter moms of food.

But we often reach for the Kombucha or the kale and think that we are deep down somehow better than all those other people who don’t buy organic food, or that we are somehow more enlightened to use our resources to buy single-origin Fair Trade coffee. And if we do eat meat or dairy, we buy grass-fed, humanely raised cows that were hugged before they were slaughtered. And so we feel good about ourselves. (And did you know this focus on “pure” eating is actually a real, live thing now? It’s called orthorexia.)

Please understand, I think using our money wisely to protect our bodies and our world just plain makes sense and is a proper thing to do; but I also realize it is a luxury that most of the world can’t afford, to pick and choose their food. And sometimes I really want a slice-and-bake cookie or a Starbucks latte with all the yucky chemicals because it tastes good.  I’m just not going to do the guilt of it all anymore.

I am not a better human being if I eat those horribly processed pumpkin Halloween candies (um, can you tell I just had several?). Drinking a green juice does not in fact make me better or give me a more worthwhile day. Making sure my kids just get maple-syrup sweetened treats does not make me more gracious, generous and compassionate to those same children. Now I try to serve myself and my family healthy food, but doing so is not a new law that must be fulfilled to make me right before my family, friends, neighbors or God. Huge sigh of relief from this perfectionist who likes to get everything just right. Eating perfectly, though it might change how I feel, will never change my heart. 

Now, I know we all know that. But do we have the freedom to choose what we know to be a poor choice (those darn pumpkins again!) and still enjoy the choice we’ve made, without attending guilt? I think we could all have a very successful party by having a big bonfire and throwing away our alternative flours and sweeteners and just being together to laugh and play and not read ingredient lists. Breathe.  It’s about the people, not what they put in their mouths, that matters. So eat your candy, or have your glass of wine; make your choice and live with it without looking back with regret; be intentional. Look someone in the eye today, and toast them with champagne, or instant coffee, or your homemade gluten-free, pumpkin muffins with fair trade chocolate. It’s about the people.

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This is the sixteenth post for the Write 31 days challenge, where I’ll be writing every day through the month of October. I’m excited to see what comes of this daily practice. I’d love for you to comment, pin the above image, share posts and subscribe to receive posts to the right in the sidebar as we work through these things together. Posts in the series are all linked to from the first post.

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15 Comments

  1. I love this. Nutrition seems to be the newest form of adult peer pressure. Sometimes I think the stress of freaking out about everything we eat is more detrimental to our healthy that what’s in the food to begin with. Great read!

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  2. Amen x 100. I got myself a good case of orthorexia when I thought a very low carb paleo diet would cure my type 1 diabetes. I started having anxiety attacks every time I had to decide what to eat–seriously, paralyzed and on the verge of tears wishing I did not have to eat at all. I was That Person who brought my flax crackers and organic almond butter to family gatherings and turned down invites from friends because I was afraid I’d be tempted to eat something that would kill me. It’s still a daily challenge to accept that I’m not and can’t be pure and perfect by what I put in my mouth, though it’s a lot easier than it was a couple of years ago. Also a daily challenge to accept that whatever size I happen to be is okay and I’m still worthy of love from myself and others. At the same time, I have to balance taking care of my health issues with the not-being-perfect thing, and food is a huge part of controlling my blood sugar and insulin dosage, obviously. So it’s hard. I can never totally let go and say anything and everything is okay, so I’m always teetering on that edge of what can feel like insanity.

    We are a whole nation with an eating disorder. We’re obsessed with food on both ends of the restrict & binge spectrum. And the new eating purity thing is a huge stressor that’s affecting a LOT of people! It’s a real joy-killer for sure.

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    1. Sara, thanks so much for reading and commenting and sharing your experience. I know, I’ve been “that person” too and a lot of the times, I still am that person in my mind. Using my food choices beyond their good effects to justify myself and make me feel worthy. And I like what you say about the national eating disorder on both ends of the spectrum. Very true.

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  3. Too funny. I wish I hadn’t read the list of ingredients in Starbucks’ pumpkin chai lattes, because I do want to choose with intention, and I really can’t turn a blind eye once I know it is so not good for me. It is much easier to focus on black and white rules than focusing on the people, preparing food with love, and making the best choice we’re capable of in the moment. I’m so grateful that every day we get to try again. When i burn dinner, or decide smoothies and popcorn will have to suffice tonight, I’m not so hard on myself because there is always another meal tomorrow.

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  4. Thank you! Yes! I am so often torn between what is healthy and available at Costco and what I can actually afford! Then I feel guilty every time I feed my toddler grapes that aren’t organic. I needed this. Good job!

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  5. Love how you label our affection for today’s all natural culture as a form of “holiness.” Crazy. I’m in the loop, but what a reminder that it can’t save my soul. Preserve my body a bit longer and give me more energy for today… but not get me to the other side of glory!

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